Elia family’s generosity helps attract top graduate students to York

To attract doctoral applicants of the highest calibre from Canada and around the world, the prestigious Elia Scholars Program at York University has been established with a generous $1.8-million gift from the Elia Foundation.

Mariano A. Elia, who passed away in 2006, was an outstanding citizen, a leading member of the business community, and a philanthropist with a passion for learning. In 1984, he established the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian Canadian Studies at York that also received enhanced funding from this recent gift. In 1985, York University recognized his philanthropy with an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Right: Aaron Wendland, a first-year doctoral student in political science, is York’s first Elia Scholar

With York’s increased focus on research and graduate education, the Elia Scholars Program is aligned with the need to attract quality students wanting the opportunity to participate in York’s distinguished graduate programs. The idea for the program was conceived in collaboration with York University President Emeritus Harry Arthurs. “The idea of the Elia Scholars was a way of associating his name and York’s with excellence, something both the University and he cared about,” said Arthurs. 

“Contributions such as those that fund the Elia Scholars Program and Elia Chair are extremely important not only in supporting our students’ successful completion of their programs, but in recognizing and honouring the very best and most promising among our graduate students,” said Douglas Peers, dean of York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The Elia Scholars Program award is valued at $30,000 per year for a doctoral student for a maximum of four years. The program supports three incoming doctoral students of unusual achievement and great promise. For 2007-2008, the first year of the program, one Elia Scholar was chosen. 

On Oct. 15, the first recipient of York’s Elia Scholars Program award, Aaron Wendland, a first-year doctoral student in political science, was honoured at a dinner hosted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and attended by three of Elia’s children, Valerie Elia, Paul Elia and Susan Zorzi, and his granddaughter Rochelle Zorzi, as well as faculty and staff from York.

Above: From left: Aaron Wendland, Valerie Elia, Paul Elia, Susan Zorzi and Douglas Peers

The first annual recipient dinner offered an opportunity for members of the Elia family to meet Wendland and learn about his research proposal, titled "Beyond Freedom: Politics as Responsibility in a Post-Modern World".

“The programs and initiatives made possible by the Elia Foundation over the years embody York’s commitment to excellence that has contributed to our achievement of a number of important objectives," said Sheila Embleton, York vice-president academic. "I want to express my personal gratitude to the Elia family and my congratulations and best wishes to the first recipient of the Elia Scholars Program award.”

For more information, visit the Elia Scholars Program Web site. 

Submitted to YFile by Ruth Morayniss, manager, communications, public relations & recruitment, Faculty of Graduate Studies.